This Essay will focus on three metaphors, and show briefly how the arguments that copyright law is “unworkable” in the Internet context are based on a misreading of these metaphors. The first metaphor is the use of the term “cyberspace” to apply to the Internet; the second is the tendency to describe Internet communication as “going” somewhere. Both of these metaphors mistakenly suggest a space in which enforcement—and, indeed, violation—of any law is impossible. The third metaphor is the “wine and bottles” analogy, set forth by John Perry Barlow in his widely circulated article, “The Economy of Ideas," to show the alleged inapplicability of copyright law to digital communications. This metaphor seems crafted to support an anticopyright argument that deliberately overlooks the very essence of what copyright law actually protects—not ideas, and not specific media of communication, but the original expression of authors.
Robert C. Cumbow, Cyberspace Must Exceed Its Grasp, or What's a Metaphor? Tropes, Trips and Stumbles on the Info Highway, 20 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 665 (1997).